South African COVID Strain Spreading Domestically in Israel, Testing Indicates

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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A coronavirus ward in Beilinson hospital, Petah Tikva, Israel, January 19, 2021.
A coronavirus ward in Beilinson hospital, Petah Tikva, Israel, January 19, 2021.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Three domestic cases of the South African coronavirus strain were found for the first time, in a random selection of COVID test samples from patients who did not travel overseas or come into contact with people returning from abroad.

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It is the first sign of an existing chain of infection for this virus variant still unknown to the virus tracking system.

In effect, this means that the South African variant has penetrated Israel's testing and isolation mechanism for travelers – and that it is almost certainly spreading among the general public. As it is highly infectious, it could spread quickly and widely alongside the British variant.

Between January 24 and 26, 347 passengers arriving from South Africa and Dubai were placed in government-run isolation facilities – also known as coronavirus hotels – according to figures from Israel's Health Ministry and Home Front Command. Over the past week, 34 new patients were found to have the South African variant in nine different chains of infection, the data show.

The knowledge about how the South African variant has affected the rates of infection is limited; for now, the only fact known is that, similarly to its British-born cousin, it is more infectious.

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